Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of medical conditions that are known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). A man who developed HAVS as a result of using vibrating tools at work recently won £11,000 in compensation.

The man worked regularly with a variety of vibrating tools, including air chisels and breakers. In spite of the nature of the work, he was given no advice or training on the risks to his health or on how to use the tools safely.

He was also not provided with any protective equipment, such as anti-vibration gloves, and there was no system of rest breaks or for the rotation of jobs in order to prevent over-exposure.

The man began to experience tingling and pins and needles in his fingers. After tests, he was diagnosed with HAVS. As a result of the condition he is no longer able to work in the same job and is limited as to the work he can do. His symptoms have also worsened, and the pain he suffers because of the damage to his nerves is likely to last for the rest of his life.

The man’s employer denied liability for his injuries. Once court proceedings were commenced, however, a settlement of £11,000 was negotiated.

Employers have a duty to ensure that the correct health and safety measures are in place to protect their employees from damage caused by vibrating machinery. The preventive action that employers need to take depends on the level of the risk involved. For high-risk situations employers are required to use an action plan to check and control levels of exposure. This might include effective training, ensuring the regular maintenance of equipment and the continuous monitoring of health levels.

For further information on this topic, see http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/regulations.htm.